CISABROAD BLOG · December 20, 2021 · 4 Min Read
How to Get a US Passport

To study abroad outside of the US, all students will need a valid passport. Passports serve as proof of your US citizenship and necessary travel documents for international travel. Not sure how to get one? We’ve got you covered!  

US passports are administered through the US Department of State. They have a great website that outlines the entire process, including the necessary forms, eligibility requirements and answers to many of the most common questions. Even if you have not applied to a program, having your passport ahead of time will be helpful. 

Below are the steps you will need to take to obtain your US passport and prepare for your adventure abroad.

*The information below is specific to US passport holders.  If you are an international student or US resident, different instructions will apply.

Step 1: Apply for a new passport or renew your passport.   

If you have not previously been issued a US passport, you will need to apply for a new one. If you have a US passport, check the expiration date. Passports expire between 5 and 10 years, depending on the age you were when you first received it.

Step 2: Determine if you need to apply in person.

If this is your first passport, then you’ll need to apply in person at a passport acceptance facility. Use the link above to search by zip code to find the closest passport office to you and book your appointment. We recommend calling ahead to verify that the information listed online is correct.

If you are renewing, you may be eligible to renew by mail. View specific eligibility requirements for mail in renewal here.

Step 3: Forms and Paperwork

For new passport applications, you will need to bring the following documents:

  • Completed application form
  • Evidence of US citizenship 
  • Valid ID
  • Photocopies of Evidence of US citizenship and Valid ID

Step 4: Passport Photos

One current photo (taken within the last 6 months) must be provided with your application. Photos need to clearly show your face. You can get passport photos taken at locations such as CVS or Walgreens pharmacies for a small fee. Additionally, some passport acceptance facilities may offer photos as a service as well. View all passport photo requirements here.

Step 5: Calculate Fees

Study abroad students should apply for the US passport book. US passport cards cannot be used for international air travel. Depending on how quickly you need your passport, you can choose standard processing or expedited processing. You must have your passport in hand before you can travel. It’s also important to remember that some study abroad programs require a student visa. You will need to have your passport before applying for a visa, and may need to allow more time to complete that process.

Step 6: Submit your Application 

Finally, submit your application to the passport acceptance facility for processing. You’ll be able to check the status of your application 2 weeks after submission.

Once your passport is ready it will be sent to the address you provided on your application form. And then the real adventure can begin!  

Not sure what your first passport stamp will be? Take a look at CIS Abroad’s program options to get started!

On the CIS Abroad blog, we share student-written content and information for students, advisors, other study abroad professionals, and families of students studying abroad. Check out our Facebook and Instagram for more from us and our students!